The following are previews with betting tips for Round 23 of the 2017 AFL season.
Friday, August 25
Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs
7:50PM AEST, Etihad Stadium
With both clubs now out of the finals race, the focus for this match turns solely to the retirees who will run out for the very last time. Luke Hodge for the Hawks, Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd for the Dogs—not a bad group of players. It’s going to be an emotional night at Etihad, but unfortunately for both clubs it will be the end of their 2017 campaign. The Dogs are still considered a mathematical chance of making the eight if they win, but it’s so unlikely it’s not even worth considering. The loss to Port Adelaide was the last straw. It was a game they desperately needed to win, but when it was on the line with five minutes to go they weren’t able to get the job done like they were last year. Too many players are down on form, and they don’t seem to be playing as a cohesive team either.
The Hawks will be disappointed in their loss to the Blues on Saturday night, but it’s not something they’re likely to lose any sleep over. The Blues were hungrier and more composed, and that was the difference. You can’t blame the Hawks for not showing up when there’s not a whole lot to play for, especially when they know that the following week they’ve got the huge task of sending off the retiring Hodge. Both clubs will be desperate to win for their old champions, but I get the feeling the Hawks will edge the Dogs out in this one. The Hawks will treat this as their grand final, and while you’d expect the same from the Dogs, it seems like the toll of winning last year’s flag and the expectations that have come with it are dragging them down, and now they just want the season to be over.
Betting tip: Hawthorn to win @ $2.10 (Marathon Bet)
Saturday, August 26
Collingwood v Melbourne
1:45PM AEST, MCG
Barring a disastrous thumping this weekend, the Demons will be playing finals footy for the first time in what feels like forever. They weren’t terribly convincing against the Lions on Sunday, but they did enough to get over the line and avoid putting themselves under immense pressure to beat the Magpies this week. That would still be the ideal outcome of course, but they can now play with a bit more freedom than they may have been able to if their top eight spot was on the line.
Even though they won’t be participating in finals actions, the Pies have also got a huge month in front of them as they make the call on whether coach Nathan Buckley is the right man to lead them into the future. There’s the added pressure of having another club currently on the search for a senior coach as well, meaning if they decide to sack Buckley, they will want to have a good idea of who the potential candidates to replace him are.
This should be a decent game of footy on Saturday afternoon. The excitement from the Demons’ camp should bring out a decent crowd, and the Pies will feed off that—they’ll be desperate to finish their season off with a win and keep enthusiasm for the future high, regardless of who is coaching next year. I reckon the Demons will get over the line, but I think it’ll be a really tight contest the whole way through.
Betting tip: Melbourne (-7.5) @ $1.98 (Marathon Bet)
Brisbane v North Melbourne
2:10PM AEST, Gabba
This game will be a real test of the AFL’s attempt to rid the game of tanking—the winner takes home a useless four points, and the loser earns the number one draft pick. Both clubs have publically stated they will be doing everything in their power to win, and that the difference between pick one and pick two is not worth risking club culture over. I’m inclined to believe them, but I feel like either team will be stoked if they give 100% and come up just short. That way, they’ve given it everything and not compromised on a win-at-all-costs attitude, but also finished up with the first choice at the draft. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
The Kangaroos have probably been the more competitive team for the majority of the year, but right now they’re struggling and the Lions are finishing off the year with a full head of steam. Combine that with the home ground advantage and you’ve got to think the Lions will win and lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder, something that seemed a far-fetched proposition a month or two ago. I expect it to still be a relatively tight contest, but I’m backing the Lions to finish their year off strongly and take some real momentum into the pre-season.
Betting tip: Brisbane (-16.5) @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Sydney v Carlton
4:35PM AEST, SCG
Saturday night’s win over the Hawks was massive for Carlton, just to reinforce the belief that they’re headed in the right direction. A loss would have kept them in the race for the wooden spoon, and considering they’ve got Sydney this week, they would have been a fair chance to end up with it. If that was the case, the critics would be on their back, saying they’ve gone backwards, that it was a poor year, and so on and so forth. What a difference just one win makes. And what a difference a win will make for Sydney if they can beat the Blues comfortably, and the Tigers go down to St Kilda on Sunday afternoon. That would put them, along with Port Adelaide, in the running for a top four finish. I still can’t quite get my head around that after they kicked the year off by losing their first six games.
This game shouldn’t be too much trouble for them. The Blues were impressive on Saturday night, but Hawthorn didn’t apply a whole lot of pressure and essentially let the Blues do as they please. They won’t have the same opportunity against the Swans, and will be lucky to get within 10 goals of them. Still, it’s been a solid year of development for the Blues, and for the Swans, well, they’re a red hot chance to go all the way in 2017.
Betting tip: Sydney By 40+ @ $1.50 (Bet365)
Geelong v GWS
7:25PM AEST, Simonds Stadium
It’s not too often you can say this about a round 23 matchup, but this game could have huge ramifications on the outcome of this season. Both clubs are guaranteed to finish in the top four regardless of the result, but the winner will earn a home final, while the loser will be forced to travel in the first week of the finals. For the Cats, that would mean either playing Adelaide in Adelaide or GWS in Sydney, while the Giants could end up in Adelaide or back in Melbourne against the Cats. When so little separates the teams in the top eight, the benefit of having a home final is a significant advantage. If the Giants get it, they probably end up in the Grand Final. That’s how important this game is, so expect both clubs to be going all in to get the win on Saturday.
After a poor start in which they conceded six of the first seven goals, the Cats did well to overcome the Pies, a team they’ve had trouble with in the recent past. The Giants are also coming in off a strong win, taking care of a plucky West Coast side by 21-points. It’s all set up to be a ripping contest. The Cats will regain spearhead Tom Hawkins following his two week suspension, and the injury gods are beginning to give GWS a bit of a break, allowing them to field a side that is close to their best 22. As the Tigers found out a few weeks back, the Cats are very difficult to beat in Geelong, but I get the feeling the Giants are one of the few teams up for the challenge. It’ll be close, but I reckon GWS will get home.
Betting tip: GWS to win @ $2.00 (BlueBet)
Port Adelaide v Gold Coast
7:40PM AEST, Adelaide Oval
Port Adelaide kept their top four hopes alive with an impressive 17-point victory over the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat on Saturday. While they have been unconvincing at times this year, the fact that they are still a decent chance of snatching a double chance means they’ve given themselves every opportunity to go as far as possible. I still highly doubt they’ll make it past the second week of finals, but if they hit some form at the right time, who knows what can happen. They should be in for a big win this week when they host the Suns at the Adelaide Oval; much better sides than the Gold Coast have copped a belting this year when travelling to Adelaide. I can’t see too many positives coming out of this one for the Gold Coast. They’re likely to get smacked, and the speculation over Gary Ablett and their poor culture is only going to continue.
For Port, it’s not only the win that’s important, but the percentage too. If the Tigers happen to lose to St Kilda, then either Port or Sydney will take fourth spot, and that will most likely come down to a small difference in percentage, so a big 100-point victory would position them very nicely. And unfortunately for the Suns, I think the final margin will be extremely close to that.
Betting tip: Port Adelaide (-50.5) @ $1.84 (BetFair)
Sunday, August 27
Essendon v Fremantle
1:10PM AEST, Etihad Stadium
Unless something outrageous happens on Sunday, the Bombers will be playing finals footy this year in what is a spectacular change of fortunes for a club that finished last year as wooden spooners. The circumstances were different of course, but everyone involved at Essendon will be thrilled to re-enter September action, even if they are only making up the numbers.
But before they can get too excited, they need to make sure they beat the Dockers on Sunday afternoon. They’ll again be without star defender Michael Hurley, but really, they could be missing half their team and they’d probably still beat Freo at the moment. It’s to be expected that some teams that are out of finals contention will struggle towards the end of the long season, but what Fremantle are doing right now is the very definition of limping to the finish line. A third 100-point loss in a row and it could be labelled the worst finish to a season of all time. They’re not quite that bad, but they’re absolutely cooked and just need to re-set right now. They might be in for one more loss before they get that chance however, and I suspect it might be another big one.
Betting tip: Essendon (-41.5) @ $1.95 (Marathon Bet)
Richmond v St Kilda
3:20PM AEST, MCG
This is another massive game of footy that could have ramifications in both the top four and the bottom of the top eight. If the Tigers win, which they should, a top four finish is all theirs. If they lose, things get interesting. They could then drop out of the top four, and if other results fall a certain way, St Kilda could sneak into eighth position. It’s highly unlikely, but the unlikely has seemed to happen this year.
The Saints will be doing everything in their power to prolong the career of their superstar ex-skipper Nick Riewoldt, but it’s going to be tough for them to beat the Tigers. Richmond will be full of confidence after easily throwing aside lowly Fremantle last Sunday, and they’ll want that to continue this week against much better opposition. If they can get the job done, the hype around the Tigers heading into the first week of finals will be unbelievable. I expect this one to be close for the majority of the day, before the Tigers pull away to cap off a very solid home and away season.
Betting tip: Richmond (-13.5) @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
West Coast v Adelaide
4:40PM AEST, Domain Stadium
The last game in round 23 may hold some serious interest if other results fall West Coast’s way. They are still a rough chance to finish in eighth position, but in order to do that they must beat the best team in the competition. It’s in Perth so you’ve got to give the Eagles a chance, and to be honest, the Crows don’t have a whole lot to play for. They’ll want to put in a solid effort so as not to flirt with their form heading into the finals, but there’s no reason to really push themselves to the point of exhaustion if the game is on the line, because frankly, the result doesn’t bother them. Which suits the Eagles, but the issue is the Crows may be too good for them even in second gear. It’s been another disappointing year for West Coast, especially considering the excitement behind the recruitment of Sam Mitchell. He’s had a good year, but they’ve got some serious issues with their midfield that will only become more pronounced once Mitchell and Matt Priddis are gone.
This one is likely to be a dead rubber, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a really lacklustre affair. The Crows are a much better side than West Coast, so regardless of it being playing in Perth the Crows should have a relatively comfortable win.
Betting tip: Adelaide (-17.5) @ $2.10 (UniBet)
Best Bets of the Round
Hawthorn to win @ $2.10 (Marathon Bet)
Essendon (-41.5) @ $1.95 (Marathon Bet)
All Bets: -25.25 units
Best Bets: +6.70 units